I just want to watch the pretty pictures.
March 21, 2010 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I stream HD movies wirelessly over my home network?

I have a server and I'm trying to stream HD movies from it to my HTPC. I've tried everything I can think of. We have a wireless n router but still doesn't seem to have enough bandwidth to stream hd content. Occasionally it will work for an entire movie but 95% of the time it stutters and comes to a halt. I thought the wireless card wasn't getting a good enough signal so I turned an extra router(which was only wireless g) into a bridge to hopefully get a better signal which helped but didn't solve much of anything. It can handle standard def just fine and it's not an issue with the video card, processor etc. because when I have a hard connection it works fine. Is there a way to get VLC, or any other media player for that matter, to buffer part of the movie then continue to buffer it as it plays? I'd be fine queuing a movie up then waiting and letting it play through.
posted by no bueno to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can indeed increase VLC's buffer. This really helps when your connection speed is theoretically enough to stream content but it still stutters and drops out. Under preferences, select 'All' under 'Show settings' in the lower left. Then open 'Input/Codecs', 'Access modules', and then 'File'. Increase the caching value from the paltry 300ms to something more like 3000ms, 30000ms, or even more. Experiment with what works. Use too much buffer and pausing/resuming and ffwd/rewind may become unbearably slow.
posted by zsazsa at 10:11 PM on March 21, 2010

What format is the movie file in? MKV? I feel like you could be a lot more specific and it would be very helpful.
posted by lakerk at 10:14 PM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: I'll give that a try tomorrow. I've done a lot of messing around in settings and thought that I had messed with that but I may have messed something else up first. Thanks hopefully this works!
posted by no bueno at 10:16 PM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: lakerk, yes most of the files are MKVs
posted by no bueno at 10:16 PM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: Any other specifics that would be helpful?
posted by no bueno at 10:17 PM on March 21, 2010

So you're connected via wireless G to a wireless N network? That may be part of your overall problem. Aside from whatever VLC tweaks you apply, you may want to pick up a wireless N adapter.

Also, I'm fuzzy on networking-- doesn't bridging half the available bandwidth because you're making two wireless hops? I'm exactly sure if that applies in this situation.
posted by sharkfu at 10:18 PM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: I had a wireless n adapter but it wasn't getting much a good signal so I figured 5 bars from a wireless g connection(through the bridge) would be better than 1 or 2 bars on wirless n.
posted by no bueno at 10:20 PM on March 21, 2010

Highly doubt 1080p will stream over wireless g. 720p maybe. I'd try a different wireless n adapter if you can.
posted by meta87 at 11:23 PM on March 21, 2010

I'd check to make sure your router has the newest firmware. And check to make sure your adapter has the latest driver. If you try newer drivers on your N adapter or try a new adapter altogether, I'd read up on your router-- some of the older wireless N routers would drop the whole network down to wireless G speeds if a single G client was on the network.
posted by sharkfu at 11:39 PM on March 21, 2010

I had a wireless n adapter but it wasn't getting much a good signal so I figured 5 bars from a wireless g connection(through the bridge) would be better than 1 or 2 bars on wirless n.

You might be confusing connection strength with connection speed. Try the n adapter again and see if that works better.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:21 AM on March 22, 2010

CIFS? NFS? How are you accessing the files? What's the packet loss of the connection?
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:46 AM on March 22, 2010

As Geckwoistmeinauto said, it would help if you told us the average latency (between client-server) and packet loss of the wireless connection.

I can stream 720p files over an 802.11g network using a now obsolete WRT54GL, the throughput of the network on bulk sequential file copies wireless-to-wireless is about 12.5Mbps. If I copy a file from a server on the 100Mbps wired LAN to a 802.11g laptop, it will achieve about 24Mbps.

For example, say I have a 7900MB copy of a 720p movie, and it's 140 minutes long. I need to move about 56MB to 57MB per minute to stream the movie. That's well within the capabilities of a 12.5 Mbps wireless connection (about 75MB per minute) though you should increase the VLC buffer sizes as mentioned above.
posted by thewalrus at 8:15 AM on March 22, 2010

I've recently had the exact same problem - a WDTV Live box with a wireless adapter, trying to stream 720p MKV files from my main HTPC. It's been a bit of a battle, but I have it stable now.

The takeaway is this:

* Use 801.11n if you can.
* Use the 5GHz mode if your gear supports it.
* Get the wireless points as close together as possible.
* Set the router to WPA2+AES.
* If you have a very good signal, use 40MHz mode.
* - This bonds two channels for better throughput.
* Limit the router to only 802.11n - no backwards compatibility.
* Use your spiffy "n" network for media streaming only.
* - Do all your other network activity on your "g" network.
* Watch out for mirrors and large metal objects.

If you don't have "n" several of the points still apply - don't support backwards compatibility, WPA2+AES is best, and keep it all as close together as you can.

I specifically cited mirrors as that was a trouble spot in my setup.
posted by Fat Elvis at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2010

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